Ott Tänak won the penultimate stage of the Acropolis Rally but Kalle Rovanperä remains comfortable out front, set for his second career World Rally Championship victory.
Rovanperä started Pyrgos, the longest stage of the rally at 20.6 miles, 44.9 seconds to the good after a sublime effort on Sunday morning’s opener where he outpaced Tänak by 14.1s.
But Hyundai’s Tänak got his own back on SS14 of 15 as he beat Rovanperä by 9.9s, winning the stage by 2.2s over the impressive M-Sport Ford of Fiesta WRC Adrien Fourmaux.
Third-placed Sébastien Ogier (pictured below) was third quickest, 9.1s adrift.
Rovanperä described Pyrgos as the “most difficult stage I have done this weekend” as the muddy sections in the forest caught him by surprise and were not ideal for his harder package of tires, but with a 35s advantage ahead of the powerstage the time loss was of little concern.
What had been a concern for his rival Tänak was an electrical issue that affected his SS13 performance. He admitted things were better on the next test.
“This stage was not disturbing so much, just a bit on the visibility,” he said.
“Basically I have no control of the wipers and it was raining, so if you want to see and can’t see it’s difficult.”
Fourmaux lost his grip on fifth place and fell to seventh on the previous test because he had to change the spark plugs in his Ford Fiesta WRC.
The unexpected delay meant Fourmaux checked into the test 18 minutes late and therefore copped a three-minute time penalty that dumped him behind Gus Greensmith and Elfyn Evans.
Fourmaux started SS14 more than 11s down on Evans’s Toyota but perhaps crucially, started the stage 24 minutes and eight cars after, thus facing a better road condition.
The M-Sport driver made perfect use of it, vaulting back past Evans into sixth place by just 0.8s ahead of the powerstage after setting the second-fastest time.
Evans felt his notes were “a bit brave in places” due to completing the recce in thick fog.
Greensmith meanwhile was thankful to not be battling anybody anymore as he described his pacenotes as “shocking”.
“I’m driving more on sight than I am on my pacenotes which is never nice,” he said.
Thierry Neuville felt he “couldn’t go any faster” on SS14 but he was only fifth fastest, 2.9s clear of his fourth-placed team-mate Dani Sordo, who is keen to just secure the position he has held for the majority of the rally.
Neuville has climbed one extra position overall into ninth, past Marco Bulacia’s Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo. All being well, he should be able to claim eighth on the powerstage with just five seconds to make up on WRC2 leader Andreas Mikkelsen.
1 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) 25m24.4s
2 Adrien Fourmaux/Renaud Jamoul (M-Sport Ford) +2.2s
3 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota) +9.1s
4 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) +9.9s
5 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +14.2s
6 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +15.6s
Leading positions after SS14
1 Rovanperä/Halttunen (Toyota) 3h19m49.8s
2 Tänak/Järveoja (Hyundai) +35s
3 Ogier/Ingrassia (Toyota) +1m07.4s
4 Dani Sordo/Cándido Carrera (Hyundai) +2m47.9s
5 Gus Greensmith/Chris Patterson (M-Sport Ford) +5m17.7s
6 Fourmaux/Jamoul (M-Sport Ford) +6m40.7s
7 Evans/Martin (Toyota) +6m41.5s
8 Andreas Mikkelsen/Elliott Edmondson (Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo) +8m30.4s
9 Neuville/Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +8m35.4s
10 Marco Bulacia/Marcelo der Ohannesian (Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo) +8m50.6s